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April 27, 2013

I'm relieved it's not just me

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The Daily Star

---- — For the last few years, I’ve been convinced that I’m just harder on things than other people are.

Take, for example, earbuds. The longest I’ve ever had a pair survive has been a couple of months. 

One failure I could directly blame on myself — turns out the technology was not engineered to survive being dunked in a tray full of latex paint — but the rest have just slowly stopped working.

Initially, I figured it was because I wasn’t willing to spend more than $10 on earbuds. So I splurged after the left mini-speaker on the most recent pair started to sound like the inside of a shell. The $40 pair made it a week further than the cheap ones before deciding to function only as jewelry.

I started to think it was my hearing that was fading, not the plastic doo-hickeys. After all, I was part of the first Walkman generation and spent far too many years walking around with headphones turned up to 11. But my kids complained about the earbuds, too, and they can hear me thinking about taking five minutes to sit and read, which is when the bickering must start.

(Admittedly, the kids might not be the best gauges. While they can hear the quietest whisper of a parent talking about going out for ice cream, they can’t hear that same parent shouting about brushing your teeth, already, so that we can get to school.)

Finally, I got all zen. This is just the way it is, I reasoned. I am simply hard on things and will need to accept that I will replace my earbuds quarterly. No sense in fighting reality.

Shortly after that, I walked into the living room, saw the Diva on the sofa, and noticed she was listening to my iPod. She was absent-mindedly chewing on something, which is something she does. Usually it’s her hair or her blanket (and, no, don t even get me started on the blanket.) This time, it was the cord to my earbuds.

I asked her what she was chewing on, even though I knew the answer.

Nothing, she said. She meant it. She really did have no idea that she was gnawing on the cord like a manic beaver.

Enlightenment hit me. It isn’t me. It’s them. 

Reader, you could have knocked me over.

All of those earbuds that had been cut down in their prime and I wasn’t the one who killed them.

Ditto all the dirt smudges on the walls in improbable places. It isn’t that we re especially exuberant with our filth, it’s that the kids don’t realize where their bodies are.

For real — I caught the Boy lying on his back on the floor and walking his snow-booted feet up the wall, which left mysterious gray-brown smudges behind.

What are you doing, I asked, even though I knew the answer.

Nothing, he said. He meant it. He really had no idea.

It also turns out that I’m not just hard on shoes, either. Admittedly, the cause of this was easier to suss out. The dog can’t resist trying to love your shoes to death with her teeth.

It’s not just family shoes, either. My husband and I went out to dinner a few weeks back — it was lovely, thanks — and returned to find a debris field of plastic and fabric strewn across the dining room. The dog looked pleased with herself.

My husband and I suddenly realized that we’d forgotten to put that on the list of information the sitter needs. You know, cellphone numbers, bedtimes, shoe-eating dog.

While writing this, I took a break to go let the dog in. On my way back upstairs, I grabbed an empty glass off of an end table so that I could take it to the kitchen.

Or, rather, I tried to grab it and nearly hurt myself because it was stuck fast to the end table. Someone who isn’t me managed to spill orange juice on the table and never did clean it up, nor did the dog. Apparently she doesn’t like orange juice.

I’m watching all of them more carefully now, not because I want to make them pay more attention — although that is a small part of it — but to reassure myself that it isn’t just me. 

Just this afternoon, while the Diva was playing on my computer, I watched her absent-mindedly transfer every piece of paper on the left side of my desk to the right side of my desk, where she was hiding it under a stack of books.

Why on earth are you ... never mind, I said, and walked away safe in my newfound knowledge.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of “Sweater Quest.” Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.